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Senior surfers - An investigation of internet usage of older adults to inform sustainable design standards of digital information services

Sheffield Business School

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Dr K Koya , Dr T O'Brien Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Aim: "How to build ergonomic digital information services for older adults to improve user satisfaction and reduce user-device interaction time?"

Within the UK seven in ten adults in the age group 65-74 and four in ten adults in the age group 75+ use the internet to aid various tasks frequently. According to Age UK, the activities of older adults on the internet are classified as communication, general surfing, social media, entertainment and transactions, however, specificities of their tasks remains unknown. For example, a transaction could either be internet banking or shopping. Although the general usage of the internet is increasing steadily, older adults principally reduce the usage of the internet due to health challenges, security risks, socio-economic reasons, inadequate skills and difficulty to find information. A contributing factor from the technology side is the unavailability of personalised (ergonomic) access to the digital information service (DIS). For example, internet banking offered by a high street bank is designed on a broader basis, however, older adults are challenged by deteriorating eyesight and hence have to exert excess effort to retrieve information they seek. This explains the longer information retrieval times of older adults from the internet. As longer information retrieval times are directly proportional to user-device interaction time, there are implications on user satisfaction, power usage and carbon footprint, which are part of the three pillars of sustainability; social, economic and environmental. Thereby it becomes essential to design ergonomic DISs for older adults not only to encourage them to access the internet for information, which could in-turn improve their quality of life and reduce the digital divide, but also reduces interaction time with devices, thereby lowering power consumption and carbon footprint. The project seeks to:
a. Understand how older adults access the internet.
b. Identify the DISs frequently used by older adults.
c. Identify various activities frequently performed by older adults on these DISs.
d. Understand how long are older adults prepared to spend on DISs and how long does it usually take them to retrieve the required information.
e. Understand older adults’ satisfaction of the current services.
The project involves working closely with Sheffield’s chapter of Age UK to recruit participants and conduct surveys, interviews and task demonstrations. If necessary, pre-counselling sessions can be arranged to build trust with potential participants. SHU’s ethics approval procedures and policies will be followed prior to the start of data collection. It is expected that data analysis will involve statistical, qualitative research i.e. thematic analysis and observation analysis of both in-person and video demonstrations.

To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here https://www.shu.ac.uk/courses/business-and-management/phd-sheffield-business-school-management-finance-service-sector/full-time

How to apply
Please submit your application to [Email Address Removed]
Applicants wishing to be considered for:
• February 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm November 22nd 2019
• May 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm February 22nd 2020
• October 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm June 22nd 2020

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Information on tuition fees, research and other costs can be found at https://www.shu.ac.uk/courses/business-and-management/phd-sheffield-business-school-management-finance-service-sector/full-time
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